IT leaders have long referenced analyst research when assessing and selecting technology vendors. But IT decision makers can easily become overwhelmed by the excess of opinion out there and fall victim to a one-size-fits-all or shortsighted approach. Combine that with increased pressure from line-of-business managers to deliver results that positively impact the corporate bottom line while showing a clear justification of every technology dollar spent.
In reality, the day-to-day needs of the enterprise are much too nuanced and the vendor landscape too dynamic to accept an analyst’s “stamp of approval” at face value. Especially in the age of the internet when information is more readily accessible than ever before and bloggers posing as experts are running rampant, IT leaders must carefully review their options before using analyst research to drive a technology decision.
Be a sceptic
When you review any piece of research, be sure to consider the tone and the motivation behind the reporting first. While most business professionals would like to believe that analyst firms are completely unbiased, analysts can easily succumb to outside pressures or opinions and that can have a detrimental impact on the reporting.
The lone blogger who posts provocative opinions about the latest enterprise technology is not necessarily a reliable analyst source. With any research, try to get a gauge of the analyst’s background and their understanding of the industry landscape. Before locking in a with a firm, be sure to ask them the hard-hitting questions to find out if you trust their expertise.
Figure out what you need
Understanding your goals is a critical step to choosing the right research partner. Are you looking for a solution that will maximise the value of a current deployment? Or are you looking into the technology crystal ball? Knowing whether you need answers to cost-related questions like ROI or considerations related to implementation and long-term adoption will largely determine the type of research you need.
For instance, some research firms focus entirely on product- or industry-specific analysis while others take a generalist’s view. If you already have a firm grasp of the technology, research that focuses on maximising the value from that technology or examines actual deployments for new ideas will be more beneficial than thought leadership-type research. Industry-specific research can be very beneficial, but do not make the mistake of overlooking the good ideas that come from outside your industry.
Conducting an audit of your existing information sources and services is another important consideration. If you are already working with a firm or you are planning to renew your contract, ask your current users to provide feedback on the research over the past year and find out how valuable the information has been. Determining whether or not the research has provided your organisation with actionable insights should be a deciding factor to seek out a new vendor.
Stick to the facts
Analysts who rarely speak with customers and attend industry events only to rehash information gleaned from others will likely not be able to properly advise you on your technology challenges. The best analysts talk to customers every day and bring that fact-based knowledge back to their clients.
Focusing on research that is tied to actual deployments and case studies is one way to steer clear of opinions and stay close to the facts. Return on investment (ROI) is a tried and tested metric that can help determine the operational value of a solution, leaving little room for opinions. It also breaks down silos within an organisation, enabling the CIO to assess the value and make a clear business case for a particular investment.
Survey data is another helpful metric to extract insights directly from users, but IT leaders should be aware that broad surveys rarely reach the real decision maker or the CIO. Survey information should be paired with deeper analysis based on actual IT deployments and case studies. This approach provides technology buyers with a more well-rounded understanding of how a solution performs and its direct impact.
Try before you buy
Lastly, before you sign the contract with a research firm, try before you buy. Test out their services by conducting a sample inquiry that will give you an idea of their quality of work and, most importantly, how they think. Find out if you will have frequent access to the analysts and meet with your team to discuss whether or not their reporting has provided your organisation with factual and actionable insights.
To maximise the investment in a research firm, IT leaders should treat the process with as much care and scrutiny as they would with any other major purchasing decision. Bad advice can be far more costly to an organisation than just the initial cost. Today, technology is critical to the smooth operation of almost every department within an organisation. Choosing the wrong solution can cause disruption to the business and personnel for many years, while leaving an opening for a competitor.
Ian Campbell, CEO, Nucleus Research